Paramount owns Star Trek Voyager and all characters.


by Keaton Bridges

During a routine staff meeting B'Elanna again brought up the need for what Tom called a 'complete overhaul' of Voyager's propulsion systems. Her first attempt to convince the Captain of the urgency had met with resistance and B'Elanna was determined to get her way.

"I fail to see why we can't postpone this a little longer." Kathryn said, a little put out with her chief engineer's persistance.

"Captain, my teams are constantly dealing with one failure or another and thus far we've been able to keep up, but I can see the time coming when that won't be the case." Leaning forward for emphasis she spoke with conviction. "If we wait until then, our down time will be even longer." Seeing no sign that Kathryn was going to give in B'Elanna leaned back, placed a hand on her protruding middle and played her trump card. "I'd like to get this done while I'm still up to it."

From the corner of her vision Kathryn saw Chakotay drag a hand across his face, no doubt trying to suppress a grin. Standing she planted her hands on her hips.

"Very well, Leutenant. You win." Kathryn said then looked at Harry. "Ensign, find us a suitable planet with a place to set her down for a few days." Placing her hand on Chakotay's shoulder she squeezed a little harder than necessary and smiled at him. "Maybe we can fit in a little R&R for the crew at the same time?"

"May as well kill two birds with one stone." he grinned.

Tom perked up and smiled. He loved it when someone picked up on one of his sayings.

Kathryn smiled and shook her head as she crossed her arms. Now that the decision had been made she found herself in a better mood. "Seven, help Harry with scans. Neelix, assign someone to fill in for you while you're on leave." When he started to protest, she held up a hand to quiet him. "No argument. You didn't take your leave last time and you are too valuable to this crew to let yourself get run down."

Neelix beamed under her praise. "Yes, Captain. Thank you."

"If there's nothing else," Kathryn said and glanced around the table. "Then let's get to it. Dismissed."

Chakotay waited until everyone had gone then rose and stepped over to join Kathryn as she turned to gaze out the viewport.

"You just love it, don't you?" she asked with a smile, glancing up at him. He chuckled and folded his arms behind him.

"I didn't expect her to use the baby card until the third try."

Kathryn turned to face him leaning her hip against the viewport ledge. "She's right, of course, and I know the crew needs some time off." Her voice trailed off as she turned her head to gaze at the stars. After a few moments of silence she spoke almost as if to herself. "I know it sounds silly but lately I've had this feeling that we're going to get home soon. I hate to stop." Aware of Chakotay watching her she turned and started toward the door to the bridge. "We've got a lot of work to do."

"Kathryn." Chakotay said. She stopped and turned to face him as he approached. "I'll be scheduling a leave for you too." He knew her very well. If he didn't insist, she would be right in the middle of the crews in engineering. Their work would progress much quicker without the Captain hovering about.

"Don't bother, Chakotay. I plan to stay on board."

"You're too valuable to this crew to let yourself get run down." he said with a grin.

"Nice try, but my mind is made up."

"You need some fresh air, some time off this ship. Do it for me?"

"I appreciate your concern but I'm fine, really. I'd rather stay here and make sure everything proceeds as scheduled." She smiled slightly. "As Tom would say, 'while the cat's away..'."

Having expected her resistance and having another agenda besides keeping her out of the hair of the work teams, he was ready with another plan. "Then at least have dinner with me one night. I have something I'd like to talk to you about."

"Of course." she answered, her smile widening. "It's been a while since we've had dinner together."

"What would you say to our taking over the galley after the supper shift while Neelix is gone and preparing something together?"

Kathryn drew back and looked at him in surprise. He merely grinned and waited for an answer.

"You're serious!" she said, brows lowered.

"Completely." he said with a small laugh. "Think you can handle it?"

"Oh, I can handle it, but you may want to have a fire detail standing by." She gave him a quizzical look. "What brought this on? This idea to cook together?"

"Let's just say I'll find it easier to talk if my hands are busy."

Kathryn's expression intensified. "Why do I get the feeling I'm not going to like what you have to say?"

Ignoring her question he smiled and grasped her elbow steering her toward the door. "I'll let you know when to meet me in the mess after I've worked out the leave rotations." There was no time for her to question him further as the door opened and they stepped onto the bridge. She shot him one of her crooked smiles and was rewarded with a wink.

Four days later they met in the deserted mess hall to prepare a vegetable and rice dish Chakotay had been anxious to try. He had asked Neelix to prepare their desserts, mocha sundaes, and leave them in the cooler. Neelix had been hesitant about having the captain loose in his kitchen but Chakotay assured him he'd keep an eye on her.

The second day of maintenance had progressed ahead of schedule, mostly because Kathryn had found something else to keep her busy, and Chakotay was thankful. As long as the teams were meeting or exceeding schedule Kathry would likely be in a good mood and he needed her in as good a mood as possible for what he wanted to discuss.

"I passed Neelix in the corridor," Kathryn said as Chakotay poured wine into the glasses she held. "and he tells me you promised he'd have a kitchen to return to?"

Chakotay grinned as he set the bottle down and accepted one of the glasses from her. "That's right."

"Why is everyone under the impression that I'm dangerous in a kitchen?"

Chakotay took a sip of wine then picked up a colander of vegetables. "You're the one who said to have a fire detail standing by." He stepped past her going toward the large sink in the galley. "Maybe it's gotten out that you and your replicator don't get along."

Kathryn followed. "Only my First Officer knows about that," she said, setting her glass down on the counter. "I'll have to speak to him about revealing sensitive information." She began rolling up her sleeves, enjoying his laughter as he rinsed the vegetables. "Were you able to convince our chief engineer to take her leave?"

"She and Tom are on the planet this very moment," he answered and shut off the water. "but I almost had to make it an order." After shaking the excess water from the vegetables he set the colander on the drainboard, removed the towel from his shoulder and handed it to Kathryn. "Pat those dry, will you?" Turning around he took down the pans he needed from hooks on the wall.

"They need this time." Kathryn said as she worked. "Soon their lives are going to get pretty hectic."

"It's still hard for me to imagine B'Elanna as a mother."

"What about Tom as a father! I'm having more trouble with that."

"All joking aside," Chakotay said as he pulled spices from a cupboard, "I think they're going to be great parents."

"I'm sure they will." she said, drying her hands. Chakotay pulled a knife from a drawer, picked up his wine then gestured for her to bring the vegetables. They moved to the chopping block and he began to slice an onion.

"What can I do?"

"Cut the tops off the peppers and scrape out the insides, then slice them into thin strips." he instructed then with a grin added, "And be careful."

Kathryn went back into the kitchen and came back with a knife. After pulling up a stool she began working on the opposite side of the block, glancing up now and then to find him intent on what he was doing. Finally her curiosity got the better of her. "What did you want to talk to me about?"

Chakotay smiled at her impatience and thought he may as well get started. After pausing to take a swallow of wine he continued cutting vegetables as he began. "About a month ago, Seven approached me and said she was interested in starting a social relationship."

"Social relationship? As in dating?"


"She was asking permisson to date?"

They continued to work, heads down. "Not exactly. She asked me out" he answered and watched her hands stop in mid slice.

"I see." Slowly she began slicing again. "And did you accept?"

"I did." He picked up a towel and wiped his hands. "We had dinner on the holodeck." Turning around he took a platter from a shelf behind him and placed it on the block."There's a program of an Italian restaurant by the shore. After dinner we took a walk by the water." Kathryn was quiet as she continued working keeping her eyes down. "The doctor and Seven have been working on improving her social skills, you knew that." he said. Kathryn nodded without looking up. "Seven felt it was time she put those lessons into practice."

"As I recall, the last time she ventured into the dating world her date ended up in sickbay." Kathryn said. Chakotay heard the slight sarcasm in her voice and straightened, looking at her. Realizing her error she smiled up at him. "But I didn't hear about anything like that happening to you. May I assume there were no injuries?"

"There were no injuries." he answered flatly. They worked in silence for several moments.

"I guess I always knew Seven would eventually seek a relationship, but never once did I imagine she'd choose you." This time she smiled sweetly, adding. "She has excellent taste."

Chakotay's brows lifted briefly in surprise. "Thanks."

"This is what you were nervous about telling me?"

"Part of it."

Kathryn picked up her wine and took a swallow, waiting for the rest. When Chakotay continued to chop, she urged him on. "Well?"

He scooped up vegetables and placed them in separate piles on the platter as he spoke. "We had another date several days later which was very odd."


"Yes, odd. You know how focused Seven is, how she never seems to get...what's the word...flustered? Well, she seemed very uneasy, preoccupied." He picked up the platter and started toward the kitchen, Kathryn on his heels. "I finally asked her what was on her mind."


Chakotay was glad his back was to her because he couldn't help smiling at her open curiosity. He began dropping vegetables into a pan. "We had a conversation about you."

"What?" came her almost strangled cry.

"Why does that surprise you, Kathryn? You're very important to both of us."

"But why would you be talking about me on a date?"

Chakotay tossed in spices, gave the vegetables a good stir then turned around to find her sitting on the counter. "Seven had questioned me about the years of our journey before she came on board and I got the distinct feeling there were questions she wanted to ask but wouldn't."

"Seven? She's always so direct."

"Exactly. Like I said, it was odd."

"What did you do?"

Chakotay turned around to get plates from under to counter but more to hide his grin. Sobering, he answered. "I told her I'd be happy to answer any questions she had." Opening a drawer he removed eating utensils. "That's when she asked if you and I had ever been romantically involved."

Kathry gasped. Chakotay put the plates and utensils next to her then turned and leaned against the counter facing away both to keep an eye on their dinner as well as to avoid her eyes. "I told her no, that we had not, then asked why she had asked that." He turned to look at Kathryn for only a moment as he said, "Here's the part you're not going to like."

Kathryn's eyes widened slightly and she took a gulp of wine. Chakotay stepped to the stove to stir the vegetables. "She said there is a lof of speculation among the crew about us, you and me, and that many of them believe we were lovers on New Earth."

When there was no sound from Kathryn he turned around to find her gaping at him, all the color gone from her face. Though he almost felt guilty for putting her through this, he had no intentions of stopping now. "Those she spoke with were only too happy to fill her in on what they've observed between their command team over the years."

"Wha...what does that mean?"

"They've seen us attending functions together, sharing holodeck time. They know we have dinner together quite often."

Kathryn put her wine glass down as she slid off the counter and looked up at him with mild panic. "But it was all perfectly innocent."

"I know that, and you know that, but..."

"But?" she said urgently.

As gently as he could, he tried to prepare her. "I'm afraid it gets worse, Kathryn."

Kathryn rolled her eyes and turned her back to him. In one swift move she snatched her glass from the counter and threw back the entire contents then turned back to face him. She lifted her brows in question.

"Much of the crew is convinced that you and I are secretly in love with each other."

Kathryn brought a shaking hand to her throat, her expression a mixture of shock and confusion. "Because we had meals together?"

"There's more." Chakotay said. Kathryn gripped the counter, closed her eyes tightly and nodded for him to go on. "Remember when Seven studied Tom and B'Elanna's relationship?"

Hereyes snapped open. "She didn't."

"She did. She must have gotten better at being less obvious about it because I wasn't aware of it, and judging by your reaction, neither were you."

Kathryn was still stunned. She pulled herself back onto the counter, reached for the wine bottle and was about to lift it to her lips when Chakotay took it from her. He poured some in her glass and handed it to her only to see her empty it in two swallows then hold the glass out for more. He almost suggested that she slow downbut decided she just might need it.

"Do I want to know what she found out?" she said weakly.

Chakotay remained close. "I can't answer that."

Kathryn groaned and tilted her head back. "That sounds too much like a 'no'."

"Then maybe I shouldn't tell you." Right before his eyes her cheeks pinked up.

"Like hell." she snapped.

Somehow he managed to keep the laugh threatening to escape down to a medium grin but quickly killed even that. Kathryn was not amused. "She has decided that she agrees with the majority of the crew."

"This is crazy, Chakotay. How did we let this happen?" Suddenly aware of his closeness she gently pushed him aside, slid off the counter and rushed from the galley. Chakotay started to follow, went back to turn off the burner then hurried after her. He found her pacing in the dining room while gazing at the floor, her small hands clenching and unclenching at her sides. She seemed unaware of his presence as he pulled out a chair and sat down straddling it, folding his arms over the back.

"Answer me!" she suddenly said, "How did this happen?"

"I'd have to give you more details of Seven's research. Are you sure you want to hear it?"

"At this point all I want is for this to be a bad dream."

Chakotay pulled another chair out and placed it facing him. He watched her continue to pace for a few more moments. "Kathryn, come and sit down." Six more steps. "Please?"

Reluctantly she did as he asked, folding her arms stiffly.

"Try to calm down." he said and reached down to pat her knee. "You're taking this far too seriously."

"Am I?" she almost yelled, leaning toward him. "I find out much of my crew thinks I'm screwing my First Officer and I'm taking this too seriously?" She sat back and waved a hand in the direction of the doors. "Seven's been running around doing surveys about my personal life!" Her voice was rising with her agitation and when she started to get up Chakotay barely caught her writsts in time.

"Kathryn!" he said firmly, tugging her back down. "Breathe...easy."

She looked up to see genuine concern across his face and slowly nodded, forcing herself to calm down. There was still panic in her eyes.

"Better?" he asked gently.

"Doesn't it bother you that you've been the subject of all these rumors and discussions and speculations?" she asked, suddenly aware of how calm he had been all this time.

"At first it did, yes."

"What changed your mind?"

His expression clouded slightly. "When I heard some of what the crew said about us."

She stared at him for a long time. Whatever he knew, she thought to herself, he was not paticularly upset about it. Something about that alarmed her but the Janeway curiosity wouldn't allow her to heed that warning. With a heavy sign she said, "Tell me."

Chakotay softly cleared his throat and folded his arms again on the back of his chair. "Seven said that you and I look at each other differently than we look at everyone else on the ship. When we are close to one another, there is something present between us that she had no words for until the crew provided her with 'chemistry' and 'electricity'. Her own personal observations included things such as dialated pupils and increased blood flow to the face." He smiled slightly but saw that Kathryn was trying very hard to maintain her composure. Allowing his eyes to drift past her he prepared for a more diffucult part, fully aware it was a gamble. "The crew members who spoke with Seven all had similar things to say. They feel guilty for keeping us apart because they know we've put our own happiness aside for their sake. They said we are all family now and family takes care of each other." He met her eyes and saw that a single tear had escaped and was sliding down her cheek. She blinked when he brushed it away with the back of his fingers. "Seven told me I've never looked at her the way I look at you, and that she no longer wishes to continue our dates." Kathryn closed her eyes Chakotay allowed her a moment to collect herself. When she almost angrily brushed away another tear he saw her hands were shaking and felt a pang of guilt. Though it was high time the unspoken feelings between them were brought out and discussed, he almost felt sorry for putting her through this.

"We have some busy bodies on the crew, don't we?" she said, trying to sound light and looking to her side.

Chakotay rested his chin on his arms and looked up at her. "We also have some very perceptive people, don't you agree?"

"You're saying they're right?"

"I can't speak for you, Kathryn. As for myself, they've pretty much got me pegged."

Lowering her head she spoke barely above a whisper. "Wha...what does that mean?"

He waited until she looked at him, then took the leap. "I'm in love with you. I thought I kept it well hidden but I was wrong. They've figured it out. I'm sorry if that makes you uncomfortable or angry."

"Uncomfortable, yes," she said, "angry, no."

It was not exactly the response he had expected but neither did she appear ready to run from the room. There was still hope."Now that you know how the crew feels about us, and how I feel about you, how do you feel, Kathryn?"

She looked down at the floor to one side and was quiet for an agonizingly long time. Chakotay had to remind himself to breathe. When her eyes met his again they were filled with both fear and sadness. "I...I wish it were possible," she whispered, "but we both know it isn't."

Chakotay was not ready to accept defeat just yet. "Even though you know the crew would be alright with it? That many of them think it already exists?"

"Their lives are in our hands, Chakotay." She leaned a little toward him. "It really doesn't matter what they think or what they'd like to see happen. I have to stay focused on getting them home."

"Kathry, you've done that for over six years, and no matter what happens, you'll never lose that focus. I know you."

"I can't allow myself to get distracted." she said as she leaned back again, determination clear in her voice.

Chakotay thought about her words for a moment before speaking. "Have I performed my duties as First Officer to your satisfaction?"

Kathryn was taken by surprise. "What? Of course! No, you've far exceeded satisfaction. I couldn't ask for or even imagine a better First Officer. And I certainly cannot imagine this journey without you." Realizing she was rambling she stopped and eyed him warily. "What does that have to do with what we're talking about?"

Lifting his head he smiled faintly. "You've distracted me for years, Kathryn, but it hasn't prevented me from doing my job."

"There's a big difference in thinking about an intimate relationship and actually having one."

That sounded as if she had been thinking about it too. "True." he conceded. "Then consider Tom and B'Elanna." Kathryn had obviously anticipated the example and was about to speak when Chakotay went on. "I know they were a bit out of control in the beginning, but look at them now. They're content in their life together, and make no mistake, they are making that life despite great obstacles. Still, they continue to do their jobs. Maybe even better than before. As far as I'm concerned they've proven that anyone who chooses to can have it all. Even on a starship in the Delta Quadrant."

"You make a good argument, but they do not Captain this ship."

"Somehow I knew you would say that." he said with a shake of his head. "I realize you carry more responsibility than the rest of us. Maybe more than all of us combined, but you're still a human being. You need a life outside that responsibility before Kathryn disappears forever and only the Captain remains."

Clearly that thought got through. She lowered her head and was silent.

"Kathryn," Chakotay said, "just for this evening keep the Captain outside those doors." He waved a hand toward the doors then reached to take one of her hands. "Talk to me. Tell me what you really want."

Slowly she looked first toward the doors then up at him. "I'm not sure I can."

With a gentle squeeze of her hand he spoke soothingly. "Yes, you can. There's no one here but you and me."

Kathryn stared down at their hands and inhaled deeply then let the breath out slowly. When she looked up at him, the sadness in her eyes nearly took his breath. "I do...want that life. So many times I've tried to convince myself that we..that I could have it, that I could separate duty from personal life."

"But?" he urged.

"What if I can't? What if I fall so completely into the relationship that it makes me less effective as a Captain?"

"Captain Janeway can take care of herself. She's proven it time and again. It's Kathryn who needs attention right now."

She knew he was right, and the thought of him winning this argument suddenly frightened her. She bristled slightly and pulled her hand from his, crossing her arms. "Let's stop with the rediculous notion that I'm two people, shall we? The fact remains I am Captain of this ship and I do not have the luxury of enjoying the same things my crew is free to. I've accepted that."

Chakotay hid his disappointment at the turn the conversation had taken. Still, his determination was intact. "Fine. You're Captain Kathryn Janeway. I get that." Realizing his voice was too firm he spoke more softly. "I also know that you've never failed to carry out your responsibility to this crew, nor would you. After all these years out here, I think you've gotten that part down to second nature. Can't you see your way clear to relax a little? I realize I'm stating the obvious here, but our whole lives are here, on Voyager. Don't you, I, our crew have every right to make that life as normal as possible?" Sensing a crack in her resolve, he continued in an almost urgent tone. "You have complete respect from your crew, Kathryn, but they know just as I do that you need more from life than just being the Captain. They want more for you. I wonder if you really have any idea what you mean to them. They'd follow you through the gates of hell without a backward glance. Hell, they risked their lives to come back for us when we were stranded on New Earth." It couldn't hurt to remind her of a time when her walls almost came down. "You have nothing left to prove to this crew as far as being their Captain. They want to know the woman behind the Captain, the one they've only seen brief glimpses of."

Kathryn seemed to be considering his words and her expression had softened. "I do need to let them get to know me better." she said quietly.

Careful to keep his excitement over this step, small as it was, hidden from her Chakotay only nodded encouragement. "They want to share their lives with you, and have you feel free to share yours with them."

"How do you know these things?" she asked with a hint of a smile.

"Because when I put aside my rank and really talk to a member of the crew one on one, they tell me things. You'd be surprised how good it feels to connect with them on a personal level."

Again she seemed to be considering his words and averted her eyes. "Do you with them?"

"Not my deepest feelings," came his soft answer, "But, yes. I do."

"Explain." she said and allowed her eyes to meet his.

"Well, for example, Ensign Webster once asked me if the Captain ever has any fun. I reminded him that you had dropped into the Sandrine's the night before for a few games of pool. He said, and these are his words, 'But she's always distant, as if making an occasional appearance is part of her job'."

This seemed to sadden Kathryn. There was much truth in the Ensign's words.

"Another person confided in me that he worries about your well being because of the heavy burden you carry, and he wishes that you would enjoy your life more." Chakotay saw no reason to reveal that this had come from Neelix. Neelix worried about everyone on board, but especially Kathryn. "I'm telling you all this because it's not just me you've kept at a distance all these years. You've held the biggest part of yourself from all of us. We all want to be closer to you."

"I chose this life." Kathryn said softly.

Chakotay wasn't sure if she had made the statement because she wasn't ready to make a change or because she didn't want the crew worrying about her. Had he heard just a tinge of regret in her voice? Leaning toward her he looked deeply into her eyes, willing her to understand his wish to share a new life with her. "You know, that choice is not etched in stone, Kathryn. You can choose to add another level to that life. Just a little while ago you said you wanted that."

"I did, didn't I?" she said with the slightest of smiles. "I also admitted that I'm not sure I can handle both my job and a relationship. I'm not proud of that but there it is. Oh, I managed it in the Alpha Quadrant but it's different out here and you know that."

"What if the other person in this relationship were willing to take it slowly, at whatever pace you were comfortable with?" Chakotay said, the smile evident only in his dark eyes. "What if he promised not to push, and give you as much time as you needed?"

"That would be one very patient man." she answered, allowing her smile to grow a little.

Chakotay could hardly believe what was happening. "Remind you of anyone?" he asked.

"You?"she said, pretending to be surprised. "I wouldn't call professing your love to be not pushing."

Chakotay's smile faded and some of the light went out of his eyes. "Even if I told you I've loved you almost since the day I set foot on Voyager? I think I've been very patient, Kathryn." He saw both guilt and sadness cross her face and in that moment realized she had always known. "I'm sorry," he said, letting his hands fall to his knees, "I shouldn't have said that."

In an instant realization came out of nowhere with complete clarity. She did love him, and had for a long time but had kept that secret guarded, hoping that if by some miracle they got home she could finally tell him. In the meantime, time marched on. He was right.Their life was here and now. And every day that passed was another day without him. Another day longing for his touch, his kiss, his love. She looked at him for a long time then pulled her chair closer, took his hands and left them resting on his knees. Even as alarms sounded in her head she spoke before she could change her mind. "Chakotay, I'm not sure exactly when it happened but somewhere along this journey I fell in love with you. I can tell you this...I trusted you from the moment I saw your face, even though you had a phaser aimed at me." They exchanged small smiles. "When I realized that I loved you, I fought it very hard. I had to remind myself almost daily all the reasons why I shouldn't love you. In the beginning it was easier because I was engaged to Mark and I didn't know you very well." Her gaze traveled past him as she remembered aloud. "When his letter came and I got over the initial shock, I found that I was actually relieved. Finally I wouldn't have to live with the guilt I'd had for loving you while Mark waited for me." Her eyes met his again. "I almost told you that day, in my ready room." Lowering her head she drew a deep breath and gazed at their joined hands. "It was much harder after that to hide how I felt but I found a way. I told myself that it was selfish of me to want more out of this life since I was the one that stranded us here. I convinced myself that it was best for everyone if you and I remained friends and nothing more. We had more than enough on our plates anyway just surviving out here, taking care of our people and keeping this ship going." Looking into his eyes again she saw understanding and love. She drew strength from his gaze and went on. "In there," she said with a nod toward the galley, "when you told me about your date with Seven, do you know what went through my mind? That every man I've ever loved has been taken from me, and that I had some nerve thinking this time would be any different." She smiled almost shyly. "I don't want to lose you, Chakotay."

"You won't." he said so softly, she more read his lips than heard him.

"I have to tell you, part of me is scared to death. There are so many complications...I need you to convince me that it won't be as difficult as I've imagined."

"I can't do that, Kathryn." he said, "but I can promise you that whatever comes, we'll handle it together. We've already proven we're quite a team."

"Yes, there is that." she smiled.

"If it makes you feel any better, I'm nervouse too."

That does not make me feel better." she said with a small laugh. "One of us has to keep our head."

"What? I don't have a right to be nervous? I've waited a long, long time for you. Now I finally have this chance and all I can think is 'don't blow it'."

Kathryn leaned back in her chair and their hands slipped apart. "Aren't we a pair?"

"Like two teenagers on a first date." he chuckled. Standing, he tugged Kathryn to her feet and put his arms around her interlacing his fingers at the small of her back.

"What do we do now?" she asked, gazing up at him and allowing her love to shine unhidden in her eyes.

"This very minute?"

"No," she laughed, "What's the next step?"

"I think I'm supposed to court you."

"Court me?" She reached up to touch his chin, his lower lip, reveling in the freedom to touch him. "We've confessed our love, Chakotay. Don't you think we could skip ahead a bit?"

"Oh no." he said, shaking his head. "I promised to take this slowly and I'm not about to risk scaring you away."

"You're right." Kathryn said as she moved from his arms. Taking one of his hands she smiled up at him. "Why don't we finish our dinner?"

"Good idea." he said as they walked toward the galley. "I suppose this could be considered our first date, huh?"

"I suppose."

"Do you kiss on the first date, Kathryn?"

She stepped in front of him, unable to hide all traces of her smile. "Make up your mind, Mister."

Chakotay watched his fingers as they fiddled with a button on her blouse. "There are different levels of slow. I'm pretty sure a kiss, just a small one mind you, wouldn't be pushing the boundaries too much."

"I would agree with that." She brushed his hand aside and stepped closer, sliding her arms around his waist. "But just a small one."

Chakotay's grin slowly faded as he looked at her with adoration. After years of waiting and dreaming and imagining, Kathryn was in his arms. She loved him! Thank the spirits she loved him and they were finally going to begin a life together, really together. They were about to share their first kiss and there was only ever one first kiss. While he considered these things Kathryn grew impatient and suddenly grasped his face, pulling his lips to hers. When Chakotay got over the initial shock, he closed his eyes and lost himself in their one and only first kiss.